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Les Paul Pickups - Tone - Loudness


BoSoxBiker
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I'm trying to understand what I'm hearing and feeling with a small sample size of Les Pauls that I've owned and test driven. For a greatly reduced back-story, I decided to reduce my immodest collection of modestly priced electric guitars and replace them fewer, but nicer guitars. I sold my MIK 2005 Epi LP Custom and selling my 2013 Traditional Pro II. The guitar I'm replacing it with was going to be a 1950's Original Series Standard, but decided to get the Wildwood Exclusive Original Series Standard Select Top with the 1959 tributes.

OK, so here are the guitars in question and the pickups involved, best to my knowledge. I've played 99% of the time on my acoustics for the past few years, so forgive my knowledge on this front.

  • Epiphone version of 490T/490R(?)  - Not the brightest. Really nice clean. Lacked an aggressive presence on higher gain, but had a nice untamed growl-creamy thing to them that rocked in an old-school sort of way. Ironically, these were louder than the others.
  • 57/57+ pairing(?) (2013 Trad Pro II)  - These have a modern compressed, up front aggressiveness to them. In your face. There is plenty of vintage cream in there, but the modern, up front sound makes it sound more powerful. It was great compared to the LP Standards in the local GC 8 years ago, and the 10db boost is quite useful.  I've since seen marketing talk as suggesting this was a vintage sound with an 80's inspiration. I can see that.
  • BurstBucker 1/2 - I brought my 2013 Trad Pro II into the store a few weeks ago to see if I liked the 2021 Original Standard better. I did like the tone, but it was quieter than my Trad Pro II. What I liked the most was that the low-end seemed to have more character. I think that's a good description for what I heard. It's been a few weeks, and one can only get so far with very rusty electric guitar in a store.
  • 1959 Tributes (Wildwood Select) - I took a gamble. I actually got this guitar yesterday. It, too, has a little bit lower volume and less upfront sonic presense than the 2013 Trad Pro II. What this does excel at is overall old-school tone. It's depth and open spaces is a nice treat. It was easy to get lost in the moment when playing this guitar. Creamy tone was not just in the tone, it was the tone.  It's got a bit of sparkle in the highs that I will need to watch. Useful tone and volume knobs are an awesome thing. The two things I do not about the sound: The low end seems underwhelming, and the ease in which it is to overpower the pickups via attack. It loses definition quickly.

One interesting note. I didn't fully decide to pursue the Les Paul until I tried an AB between my new ES335 Figured Top and the 2013 LP Trad Pro II. The ES-335's pickups had that older school sound and that's what I wanted. To that end, this Wildwood Select did not dissapoint.

I didn't play the regular Original Standard enough for a great comparison to the Wildwood Select. I was hoping someone here might have. Overall, I would like to have a better understanding of what I'm hearing and the goal of these tones. It's easy to accept that the tone is nicer on one than another despite being lower in volume, but it's a little unnerving to actually do so. Perhaps it is telling that for what I like to play, the 2005 Epi LP MIK "out rocked" the trad pro II.

Any thoughts or insights on any of this?

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Tone is of course subjective and different for each of us.  All I can say is if you really like the tone of the Wildwood but it seems lower output than others, just turn the master volume up on the amplifier.  The ability to "overpower the pickups via attack" is one of the endearing features of a  Les Paul and you'll get used to it with more time playing that guitar.  Each is somewhat different and it takes awhile to learn how to get the sounds you want via the volume and tone controls.  Enjoy the process.

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Before making any big decisions about the pickups make sure to go through the whole gamut of amp settings, strings, amps, pedals, pickup height, etc

 

If you’re looking for a humbucker sound, the guitar should be able to do it for you no problem. Just adjust the whole setup to taste and it will all be good

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@BoSoxBiker listen to what @Dub-T-123 said because that’s what you need to do before making any rash decisions. Especially the pickup height. And you’re also changing not only the pickups you’re comparing but the guitar too which makes a difference I would imagine. Anyhow what sounds good is subjective and my advice is once you find something that sounds as good as it can to you, then roll with it. 

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21 hours ago, Dub-T-123 said:

Before making any big decisions about the pickups make sure to go through the whole gamut of amp settings, strings, amps, pedals, pickup height, etc

 

If you’re looking for a humbucker sound, the guitar should be able to do it for you no problem. Just adjust the whole setup to taste and it will all be good

You are, of course, absolutely correct. 

24 minutes ago, NighthawkChris said:

@BoSoxBiker listen to what @Dub-T-123 said because that’s what you need to do before making any rash decisions. Especially the pickup height. And you’re also changing not only the pickups you’re comparing but the guitar too which makes a difference I would imagine. Anyhow what sounds good is subjective and my advice is once you find something that sounds as good as it can to you, then roll with it. 

Pickup height, for me, has mostly been about eliminating defects in tone. It's like Goldilocks rifling through porredge. I'm also never afraid to let half a turn or even many ha;f-a-turns  more to lend me an assist when dialing on a sound for a recording, Sometimes to even exaggerate an attribute, like a cha-thunk thing on the bottom or a nasaslly thing. Early in the chain can be a good thing at times, but I'm getting off topic.

22 hours ago, Twang Gang said:

Tone is of course subjective and different for each of us.  All I can say is if you really like the tone of the Wildwood but it seems lower output than others, just turn the master volume up on the amplifier.  The ability to "overpower the pickups via attack" is one of the endearing features of a  Les Paul and you'll get used to it with more time playing that guitar.  Each is somewhat different and it takes awhile to learn how to get the sounds you want via the volume and tone controls.  Enjoy the process.

That, I did not know. I always figured 100% user error. More like 100% user adjustment. Makes sense and it has indeed started to train me.

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Some things are too good to be true. While 2/64 and 3/64 without fret noise can happen. it doesn't mean the strings natural vibration path can't be affected. That what I was misinterpreting an easy to overpower pickups. Raised each side up a total of about about .75/64 each side and it all opened up. Followed that by Raising the pickups by about the same amount and Bob's yer Uncle.

The tone and creaminess is much better all the way up and down the whole range. With the better mid-range response came a decrease in the airiness or space. Some of the harmonics in the sustain have simmered down as one might expect. It's just a much better defined sound. I need to spend more quality time with it and will do a better comparison to the 57/57+ pairing soon. 

I'm definitely much more pleased that I was the past 2 days.

OK, so, question related to the video below. Never been a 10-10 guy. I can dig what JB is doing below. My question is this. Do the POTS get more usable as we climb up the Les Paul quality totem pole? The Tone POTS are as complete as I've ever had. Volume - meh? In all fairness, I didn't fully check those again late this afternoon after settling what I detailed above.

11 hours ago, Rabs said:

 

 

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17 hours ago, BoSoxBiker said:

 

OK, so, question related to the video below. Never been a 10-10 guy. I can dig what JB is doing below. My question is this. Do the POTS get more usable as we climb up the Les Paul quality totem pole? The Tone POTS are as complete as I've ever had. Volume - meh? In all fairness, I didn't fully check those again late this afternoon after settling what I detailed above.

 

If you are asking if Customs or the like use better pots... No.. As far as I know Gibson always use re-branded CTS pots (so they say Gibson on the back not CTS)..  Its what most guitar makers use.. Pretty industry standard. And thats what they use across the range.  Guitar electrics aren't perfect by any means. When you gain one thing (in terms of tone) you loose another. And then you add the fact that all pickups register slightly different and each pot and cap resistance will vary slightly. When you add to that the fact that every piece of wood is also unique. Its very very hard to have a successful equation for the "perfect" tone and sound. Its what we talk about on here all the time. How to sound like who ever. How to get this or that sound from your guitar.

Then when you take in to account we all have different tastes and expectations of what we want to hear it all becomes more muddled.

So, really the point. Dont get too caught up on tone.. It is what it is, its not meant to be perfect, its rock n roll  🙂 Listen too and trust your ears and enjoy it. After that what ever anyone else thinks or says doesnt matter at all.. 

Also after being on here many years I think we all agree, most of what people call tone is in your own fingers, not the guitar..  Eric Clapton will still sound like Eric Clapton what ever type of guitar he is playing..  Spend your time more on practice and you wont care about the small details of what your guitar does or does not sound like (probably, we are all different 🙂 ) .

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I dunno who started using 1/64” increments as standard for “action” but it drives me crazy lol

2/64” is called 1/32” and we should be using thousandths. 
 

Not complaining about the OP it’s just that I’ve seen many people do this and it’s like making things more difficult just for the sake of being less accurate 

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1 minute ago, Dub-T-123 said:

I dunno who started using 1/64” increments as standard for “action” but it drives me crazy lol

2/64” is called 1/32” and we should be using thousandths. 
 

Not complaining about the OP it’s just that I’ve seen many people do this and it’s like making things more difficult just for the sake of being less accurate 

There are folks in this world who have issues with factions. This keeps them un-flustered.

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If I had issues with fractions I would have an easier time understanding 1/32” vs 2/64” or .0117” vs .75/64”

 

Anyway I realize accuracy isn’t that critical in the sense that nobody cares what your action is in the first place, it just defies logic

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12 hours ago, Dub-T-123 said:

I dunno who started using 1/64” increments as standard for “action” but it drives me crazy lol

2/64” is called 1/32” and we should be using thousandths. 
 

Not complaining about the OP it’s just that I’ve seen many people do this and it’s like making things more difficult just for the sake of being less accurate 

I get it, and I appologise, but I cant let this go unchallenged. 

Calling something a third (1/3rd) is more accurate than calling it 0.3333 recurring. [wink]

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10 minutes ago, merciful-evans said:

I have certain issues with some political & religious factions. About 1/128ths of the time.

That's 40% more than some of us.

I wonder that the chances are that I'd have only one typo verses multiple typos? You guessed it. 1/16th.

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1 hour ago, merciful-evans said:

I get it, and I appologise, but I cant let this go unchallenged. 

Calling something a third (1/3rd) is more accurate than calling it 0.3333 recurring. [wink]

Yes but inches aren’t divided in increments of 3 and the recurring part is irrelevant in the real world. But for sure mixing a decimal and fraction like .75/64” is blasphemy

 

not to mention we’re talking about eyeballing less than 1/64” presumably with a slide rule 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/4/2021 at 9:34 AM, BoSoxBiker said:

I'm trying to understand what I'm hearing and feeling with a small sample size of Les Pauls that I've owned and test driven. For a greatly reduced back-story, I decided to reduce my immodest collection of modestly priced electric guitars and replace them fewer, but nicer guitars. I sold my MIK 2005 Epi LP Custom and selling my 2013 Traditional Pro II. The guitar I'm replacing it with was going to be a 1950's Original Series Standard, but decided to get the Wildwood Exclusive Original Series Standard Select Top with the 1959 tributes.

OK, so here are the guitars in question and the pickups involved, best to my knowledge. I've played 99% of the time on my acoustics for the past few years, so forgive my knowledge on this front.

  • Epiphone version of 490T/490R(?)  - Not the brightest. Really nice clean. Lacked an aggressive presence on higher gain, but had a nice untamed growl-creamy thing to them that rocked in an old-school sort of way. Ironically, these were louder than the others.
  • 57/57+ pairing(?) (2013 Trad Pro II)  - These have a modern compressed, up front aggressiveness to them. In your face. There is plenty of vintage cream in there, but the modern, up front sound makes it sound more powerful. It was great compared to the LP Standards in the local GC 8 years ago, and the 10db boost is quite useful.  I've since seen marketing talk as suggesting this was a vintage sound with an 80's inspiration. I can see that.
  • BurstBucker 1/2 - I brought my 2013 Trad Pro II into the store a few weeks ago to see if I liked the 2021 Original Standard better. I did like the tone, but it was quieter than my Trad Pro II. What I liked the most was that the low-end seemed to have more character. I think that's a good description for what I heard. It's been a few weeks, and one can only get so far with very rusty electric guitar in a store.
  • 1959 Tributes (Wildwood Select) - I took a gamble. I actually got this guitar yesterday. It, too, has a little bit lower volume and less upfront sonic presense than the 2013 Trad Pro II. What this does excel at is overall old-school tone. It's depth and open spaces is a nice treat. It was easy to get lost in the moment when playing this guitar. Creamy tone was not just in the tone, it was the tone.  It's got a bit of sparkle in the highs that I will need to watch. Useful tone and volume knobs are an awesome thing. The two things I do not about the sound: The low end seems underwhelming, and the ease in which it is to overpower the pickups via attack. It loses definition quickly.

One interesting note. I didn't fully decide to pursue the Les Paul until I tried an AB between my new ES335 Figured Top and the 2013 LP Trad Pro II. The ES-335's pickups had that older school sound and that's what I wanted. To that end, this Wildwood Select did not dissapoint.

I didn't play the regular Original Standard enough for a great comparison to the Wildwood Select. I was hoping someone here might have. Overall, I would like to have a better understanding of what I'm hearing and the goal of these tones. It's easy to accept that the tone is nicer on one than another despite being lower in volume, but it's a little unnerving to actually do so. Perhaps it is telling that for what I like to play, the 2005 Epi LP MIK "out rocked" the trad pro II.

Any thoughts or insights on any of this?

Pick ups are personal preference.  you can swap them out anytime with the one(s) you like. sounds like the Guitars you have in mind are all Epiphone. You can get Epi pickups on ebay and the slow boat from china online store (ali express).  My experience with the tone and the way they sound depends on the guitar. Gibson and epiphone are producing Chambered out guitar bodys like a les paul to reduce weight. that effects the guitar tone. Me I like a 12 DC resistance alnico 2 humbucker  and or a 11 dcr  out put Alnico 5 on a chambered out guitar body. I had good results with a seymour Duncan JB 16dcr on a chambered body. I could tame the Jb pickup better than on my solid body Explorer guitar Buy the Guitar that feels good in your hands and sounds good. Soldering is an easy skill to accomplish. Seymoure duncan has a non soldier pickup change out kit along with a few other out there (stew mac) the heavy high output pickups are heavy metal. ceramic magnet pickups are great for the metal sound. but (my opinion) thats all the sound best at alnico(aluminum nickel cobolt) will get you the other geners. you need more than one guitar  a metal guitar with ceramic magnets, a classic rock country blues guitar(s) with the alnico 2 or 5 magnets. take you time finding and setting uo you guitar arsenal

 

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